Originally posted in Ellie’s blog Merlin’s Beard
I will be graduating in September with a BA (Hons) in Media Production and I am moving to Bristol at the end of this week. Now I have to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
As many of you will know, I have been fundraising since the end of last year so that I could spend a month teaching media in Peru. With the help of many friends and family members, I was able to go and it was quite possibly the best experience of my life.
On the 9th June, we left Heathrow to make our way to Cusco, Peru.
We had no idea what to expect and we weren’t entirely sure what we were supposed to be teaching but we were so excited. So we met our in-country host, Antonio and arrived at our hostel in Urubamba on the 10th and it was such a beautiful hostel called The Flying Dog, we were very lucky to have been able to stay there. Most days we were terrorised by a puppy called Valentino. There are dogs everywhere in Peru and it’s so sad because you’re not supposed to touch them.
On our first full day, we were given a guided tour around Ollantaytambo and Pisaq Ruins by the coolest tour guide called Carlos. The views were so beautiful and it was a great way to introduce us to the country. We went for lunch at an all-you-can-eat buffet and people were able to try alpaca meat – apparently, it’s really good. Every evening, we would have tea at La Casa de la Abuela and we would usually have soup for starter and then mysterious vegetables and rice for our main course. It was kind of nice not knowing what you were eating but knowing that it’s locally sourced and good for you, although it was good to have some English food when I got back.
We started teaching at Chichubamba school on the 11th and as soon as we first walked through the gates, the kids ran up to us, hugging each of us. The week would start off with the children performing a salutation to the flag before beginning their classes. We would spend the majority of our day painting tables and sorting out the ludoteca (playgroup ) as the children painted our arms and braided our hair. We’d then have lunch with the kids and despite the language barrier, ‘Made You Look, Made You Stare’ is universal. After finishing lunch, we would start our after-school club. To begin with, we played a few games to introduce ourselves and get to know the children. We taught them the classic, ‘Heads Down, Thumbs Up’ and ended up playing it every single day. It didn’t take long for the children to become comfortable around us and we were soon playing football or having poke wars.
We split the class into three groups – animation, film and photography and they rotated every three days. I worked in the film group and we taught them about storyboarding, shot types and interviewing. I was so surprised by the skill and intelligence of these children. We only had to explain the task once and the children would not only get it but go above and beyond what we were asking. It’s such a shame that these children live in such poverty when they are so smart and so willing to grasp every opportunity. While we were there, the teachers were on strike almost every day so the school was only open for our after-school club. Unfortunately, the other students wouldn’t get to go to school and it was unknown how long the strike would last for.
During our spare time, we were able to go out and explore Peru. For our first weekend, we decided to visit Cusco and Pisaq market. At Cusco, we visited the cathedral and went for lunch at the well-known Jack’s Café. The food is so good, if you’re ever in Cusco you must go. Travelling is so cheap in Peru, it cost us 6 sol to go to Cusco, which is around £1.50 for an hour and a half journey. You can find anything and everything at Pisaq market, although you will need to know how to haggle. We also visited Maras Salt Mine, which was really cool. It was quite the palaver getting there but eventually, we caved and decided to get a taxi.
On the last day, we held a presentation where we ate cake and the children could bring their families. We handed out prizes for those who stood out and showcased the work that the children made. It was incredible watching their faces as we showed them what they had made over the two weeks. Once the presentation had finished, we all hugged the children and said goodbye for the last time. It was the best two weeks of my life and I loved every second that we got to spend at Chichubamba.
After leaving Urubamba, we stayed in Cusco for a couple of days and half of the group left on the 29th. After spending three weeks together, it was strange saying goodbye and very sad. I honestly couldn’t have asked to be with a better bunch of people. From staying up late talking about nothing, to insulting each other over lunch, I made so many friends that I will always remember and I will always be grateful that I got to spend three weeks of my life with these people. Every single person was so talented and so excited to be there, it wouldn’t have been the same if it had been any other way.
I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity and it will be a story that I tell until I die. I hope to someday return to Peru and I hope that these children will remember the skills we taught them. I’m also grateful for Antonio and his partner Viki as this trip wouldn’t have been the same without them. They taught us so much and this trip would not have been as smooth sailing without them, everyone needs an Antonio and Viki in their life. I have a lot more to say about my trip but there’s so much that I’d go on for ages so here is a kind of rambly summary of my trip.